One is always nearer by not keeping still

Thom Gunn said that, in his poem ‘On the Move’.  It’s been playing in my mind a lot just lately, that line.  Maybe because the new year has well and truly started now, I’ve become rather reflective on what I’ve achieved so far and what I hope to achieve.  Sometimes it gets me down, other times I’m a tad more positive – it all depends on my mood (and how well the writing’s going that day).

Last year I (only) managed to get eight stories published, with a couple more accepted for a later release.  The (only) is mood dependant, as I said.  I’m proud of them.  I hope that’s not vain, but I am.  A lot of work went into each one.  ‘Fata Morgana’ was massive, with a lot of world building that didn’t make it into the final story (though I’ve a follow-up planned).  ‘Night Fishing’ was difficult in a different way, quite personal and emotionally hard to write.  ‘Bloodcloth’ saw more revisions than any of my stories to date – how much to explain, how much to show, how much to just let be – and in the end I risked leaving a lot up to the reader.  I’m glad, because that was what the story needed.

My point is that each story I write demands a lot from me in different ways, even if that demand is a little silly – ‘Waste Disposal’ was me responding to someone’s challenge to write about something that really grosses me out and I think I typed the whole thing with a wrinkled nose.  So to speak.  I should probably fix that sentence but I like the image of bashing at the keyboard with my face – it seems both funny and strangely appropriate.

This year I’m finding the whole writing experience even harder.  I think that’s a good thing.  I think it means I’m pushing myself more.  Not just to get more out there, in more places, but to write more challenging stories.  Sometimes that’s good and I can go to bed (eventually) rather pleased with myself.  Other times it slows me right the fuck down and I get barely anything done and that can be quite depressing.  But even that can be a good thing too, sometimes: ‘Shark! Shark!’ was me having a break, cutting loose, having a bit of fun without thinking about where the story would go, and it ended up getting some great feedback (not always, but I won’t point you to those reviews).  I even tried my hand at flash fiction and that was just as tough as I thought it would be.  I’m pretty sure I broke the rules a little with ‘A Mother’s Blood’ and ‘The Rain Deer’ regarding length, but I’m glad I challenged myself.

As hard as this writing business is, it’s also the best profession/pursuit/dream I’ve ever had.  I don’t know if I’ll get to where I want to go, but I know I’ll only get closer by not keeping still.  Not like those motorcyclist’s in Gunn’s poem, but like a shark – I’d die if I stopped.  Too much?  Maybe.  True though.

So into the darkness I go, like Robert on that train in ‘All Change’, moving forward with my monsters.  Sometimes they’re glad to see me, other times…not so much.

Eight stories to beat.  Wish me luck.

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8 Responses to One is always nearer by not keeping still

  1. Michael Kelly says:

    Good luck! I only had 4 stories published last year, and it’s looking like the same this year.

    • Ray Cluley says:

      You’ve an awesome track record though, and look at all that great work with Shadows & Tall Trees (and all those fungus stories you had to read!) – that’s gotta take up a lot of time.

  2. debs says:

    It sounds like you’re in a good place writing wise. Enjoy. And good luck.

  3. Ilan Lerman says:

    Hi, Ray. What you said about – “This year I’m finding the whole writing experience even harder. I think that’s a good thing. I think it means I’m pushing myself more” – resonated with me a lot. I had one story published in 2011 and was incredibly proud of it, but afterwards it took so much out of me that I felt as though I was always struggling to push myself harder and harder. Consequently it crippled me creatively and I didn’t write much for the first half of last year, but since then I’ve had a resurgence and while I still have those moments where it also slows me right down, I think I’m getting a better handle on how to deal with it.

    Your stories are always compelling. Good luck! I’m looking forward to what you’ll produce this year.

    • Ray Cluley says:

      I’m glad it resonated Ilan. Not sure why I wrote it, it was a spontaneous blog, and I don’t usually share things like that, but I’m glad I did for reasons like that. Reassuring to know others experience the same, especially as the writing job is a rather isolated one. For what it’s worth, I really enjoyed ‘Love As Deep As Bones’, beautifully written.

  4. karswell says:

    It’s quality, not quantity that counts Ray and you have that in abundance. A bit trite I know but true nonetheless. I’ve waxed lyrical about Night Fishing on many occasions so won’t embarrass you further by doing the same again here and I can say with no fear of contradiction that Waste Disposal is the best story ever written about a golem made of shit. You’re carving out a reputation for yourself and I can only see your writing – and career as a writer – going from strength to strength. I look forward to following your progress…

    • Ray Cluley says:

      Thanks Anthony. I’ve realised the blog may have sounded more woe-is-me than intended, but I appreciate your comments. I’m especially fond of “the best story ever written about a golem made of shit”. Ha! I hope so. My least pleasant piece, I think.

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